The Washington Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Thursday night, in opposition to a decision in January, to exempt five Route 100 properties from connecting to public sewer.
The board now concurs with a decision made by a previous board of supervisors in 1996 that the financial burden for the five property owners was onerous.
In order for the properties to be hooked up to the township sewer system, Route 100, a PennDOT roadway, would have to be excavated to lay a sewer pipe. The homes were within 150 feet of the sewer line. The cost was estimated at $24,000 per property.
Alternative plans to hook-up the properties using a gravity flow system along Stauffer Road were pegged at $40,000 per property.
Comparatively, other Washington Township residents who hook up to the sewer system were charged approximately $10,000 per property.
Township Supervisor James Roma spoke for the entire board when he said the decision made in 1996 was correct because the cost for the five properties was just “too expensive.”
Previously, the board decided to require the five properties to hook to the township sewer system despite the cost because the now defunct Washington Township Sewer Authority (WTMA) was in dire financial straits. Officials said the township needed every available fee it could acquire.
In January sewer customers who were angry about high sewer fees demanded the board require all properties within 100 feet of the sewer system to hook up to sewer regardless of the financial burden to the property owner.
One unidentified sewer customer at the Tuesday’s meeting demanded the board require the five property owners to pay sewer fees despite their decision to exempt the five properties from public sewer connections.
Officials questioned the legality of that move. Township Solicitor Dan Becker cautioned that another board could require the five properties to hook to the township sewer system, especially if sewer ever became available in the street in front of the properties.
In other business, Washington Township resident John Wynn requested supervisors show transparency in the way sewer funds are merged with township funds. Wynn asked that a larger discussion occur between the supervisors and township residents when next year’s budget is prepared.
He noted because of the economic problems of the former sewer authority, the township was “backed into a corner.” The township was required to increase taxes by 2 mills and raise sewer rates to almost $1,400 per year. Wynn said the increased tax rate is “hard on the 50 percent of residents who do not have sewer.”
He suggested, as more development comes into Washington Township, it should be discussed with residents how the tax increase and sewer rate could be reduced. Wynn said the supervisors could declare a dividend to be shared by township residents as the sewer system becomes more financially viable. Wynn will continue his discussion at next month’s supervisors’ meeting.
Washington Township Sanitary Sewer Engineer, Stuart Rosenthal of Gilmore Associates, informed supervisors the Chapter 94 report on the township’s sewer system has been prepared. Chapter 94 is an annual report to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on the operation of the sewer plant for the previous year. The report also provides a five-year projection on the sewer plant. Rosenthal reported the township sewer plant will not reach sewer capacity within five years unless economic conditions increase and more development occurs as a result.